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Painting by Jessie Bird Ngale


Jessie Bird Ngale (b. 1979) 

Alpar (Rat-Tail Plant) Story, 2023

30 x 30 cm. Acrylic on linen Canvas



    Jessie paints the story of the rat-tail goosefoot or green crumbweed plant. In Jessie's language it is called Alpar. This small, erect herb is sticky to touch and scented heavily of citrus. Growing especially well in Mulga tree communities, it is found in abundance in Jessie's home in the Utopia Region, north east of Alice Springs.


    Born in 1979 in the NT, Jessie is the eldest daughter of renowned artist Lindsay Bird Mpetyane, and her mother is Mavis Bird Petyarre. Jessie has had the advantage of an Aboriginal education as well as a European education. She attended Mulga Bore (Akaye School) Primary and Yirara College in Alice Springs. Encouraged to develop her artistic talents by her family when quite young, Jessie would assist other family members with their work.


    Her early works comprised of very neat patterns of dots when describing her country, and strong, bold linear patterns when illustrating women's stories and body paint. Today Jessie's work is more refined as she explores new ideas to portray her stories from Ilkawerne Country.


    Utopia has produced some of the most recognisable names in Aboriginal art and is notable for its strong tradition of discovering female artists. This continues today with a new generation of talented painters who are inspired by greats such as Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Gloria Petyarre, Kathleen Petyarre and Ada Bird who worked at Utopia.

    The legacy of these pioneering woman is a diversity of style and approach that welcomes hundreds of other artists from the Utopia clan groups.

    It is a region of approximately 5,000 sq km north-east of Alice Springs and is home to around 2,000 aboriginal people. The region largely lies on aboriginal owned land called Urapuntja, it is made up of several larger communities and some very small ones!

    Art is by far the largest source of employment in an area which lacks employment opportunities and skills. There are well over 250 professional artists in the region, most of them have never attended an art class!

    The creative movement in Utopia began with batik and the work they produced came to international attention and was exhibited around the world. When painting reached the communities in the late 1980’s, acrylic paint on canvas with its quick drying and no mess properties, soon overtook batik.

    This is a multi-generational art movement that has led Utopia's artists to become leaders in female aboriginal art.

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